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How Does the Department of Defense Stay on Top? Dual-Use Technology.

By July 13, 2022July 18th, 2022No Comments4 min read

Dual-Use Technology Concept

The commercial market innovates products through cutting-edge technology to add value to consumers and solve problems. The Department of Defense looks at ways it can adopt this technology for military usage. Similarly, commercial companies have also adopted technology developed by the DoD to meet changing consumer needs.

 Asylon DroneDog at Edwards AFB

The Asylon Director of Business Development for the DoD, Uzi Ibraham, sums up dual use technologies as “simply, commercially innovative technologies that we’re adapting to DoD topics and problem sets.”

One of the most recognized examples of dual-use technology is the internet, which as early form, started as a DARPA research project. Its basic purpose was to connect global teams within the Defense Department and streamline communication. Later, this project took the form of the modern-day internet and is now used by individuals and organizations all over the world.

Another recognizable dual use technology is UAV or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which can be controlled from a remote location. While the technology was developed by military professionals, it now is used by the likes of surveyors, farm owners, photographers, and delivery services.

Traditional vs. Modern Day Approach

Technology evolves with time. As such, the DoD has also modified its approach to incorporate more dual-use technology.

Traditional Innovation Process

A more traditional innovation process would be conducting research and development in-house, using DoD employees and innovation labs. The Department would hire the skilled workers as needed, and develop testing labs, research centers, etc. for working to develop the technology they needed. This traditional process would also mean that the commercial use of a technology would likely not be evaluated. The development of any technology would be strictly focused on military use for the DoD. 

Modern Innovation Process

With the passage of time, there have been discussions to bring a change to the way DoD manages innovation.

A robot dog trots across a military base.The main reason is that it’s not always feasible for the department to wait for the development of appropriate solutions. Rather, it’s more practical to enable the private sector to come up with solutions for emerging problems.

“You just tap into the smart minds of the US economy and you create a solution that didn’t exist before”, says Uzi Ibraham.

Through this approach, the government can empower the American innovation network to find real-world solutions. Then DoD can adopt the technology for the military to neutralize threats around the world and keep the country’s defense ahead of its enemies.

In the U.S. Air Force, the AFWERX program is a good example of this type of innovation at work. The AFWERX program is the innovation arm of the United States Air Force that creates simple pathways for commercial innovators and private capital investment to help the Department of the Air Force solve problems

However, the DoD still faces certain challenges with the adoption of commercial or civilian technology for military purposes.

DOD Challenges with Dual-Use Technology

Asylon DroneDog at Edwards AFB
While there are many examples of how dual-use technology has benefited the DoD, there are still challenges with such dual-use development. 

One of the challenges the DoD faces is correctly balancing the dual-use of technologies. Meaning that true dual-use technologies benefit both the commercial market and the DoD. This can be challenging because lucrative grants and contracts from the DoD can mean companies focus more on military use than both military and commercial.

Another challenge it faces is in being able to identify technology that they can help to accelerate the development of versus companies just supplementing the DoD funds for development they were already planning on doing with their own funds. Would the R&D in question have been conducted by the private sector regardless of the DoD’s involvement? These are the tough questions the Department faces when looking at dual-use technology and investment.

Technology Acquisition Routes

DoD has some different approaches and pathways for technological acquisition. Two of which are Small Business Innovation Research (SIBR), and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These two programs are highly competitive government-funded contracts or grants that encourage domestic small business to conduct federal research and development that has the potential to be used and adopted by the DoD. The department can identify a problem and then use these and other programs to find suitable solutions from the private sector. 

The DoD also provides a path for companies to pitch technology they are working on, so that the Department can determine if it provides any value or solution to them. The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) manages a lot of these types of pitches in which companies can introduce their ideas. 

Explaining the DIU approach, Uzi Ibraham says, “They’ve created what’s called open topics which allow that small company to take something that they do well and present it to the DoD to see where exactly [it might fit] and find any users that can benefit from it”.

The DoD works alongside smart business people and organizations to adopt technological solutions to solve their problems.They utilize collaboration and connection to better position themselves in a constantly evolving sector.

The bottom line is there are many new and innovative ways for commercial and government groups to partner on DoD programs. 

If you believe automated drone and robotic systems may support your DoD use-case, reach out to us here to get in contact. 

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